by Janell Cannon - Harcourts Childrens Books, 2007
ages 2 to 8 years / emotional resilience, heartwarming
Stellaluna is a baby fruit bat - loved by her mother and secure in her world.
Then, one dreadful night, she's separated from her mother and finds herself living with a family of birds.
After some ups and downs, Stellaluna comes to love the bird family.
Finally, she's reunited with her mother and manages to remain friends with the birds.
There are few books that speak to family love as strongly as Stellaluna. It's the ideal book for young children who find themselves leaving home to be among strangers who do unusual things - such as at school.
A new environment can feel just as alien to a young child as the bird's nest did to Stellaluna. Everything was upside down!. And the food (!) - Stellaluna had to eat bugs even though she was a fruit bat. For a child, a few hours away from the love and security of home can feel like the many days that Stellaluna spent adjusting to bird ways.
But the reunion with family at the end of the day can also be just as joyful as Stellaluna's, with her mother who whispers:
"You are Stellaluna. You are my baby."
and then re-introduces all the delights of being a fruit bat to her. Mangoes for example!
The hesitant then joyful way Stellaluna approaches her new life is at once exemplary, inspiring and amusing. It's fun to see Stellaluna struggling with the weirdness of foods we know and love - a wonderful reminder of the impact of culture and circumstances on our lives as well as on a fruit bat. The very things the birds think of as everyday, Stellaluna finds extraordinary, and vice versa. But as Stellaluna and her bird family work at valuing the extraordinary, they grow in confidence individually and as a new family. They also get to experience new and delightful tastes and experiences.
Stellaluna's desire to share her new life with her bird friends is touching. She wants to invite them into her world, only to find that they don't really fit there. But the birds and Stellaluna can still say:
"... we're friends. And that's a fact."
This is a must-read book - it speaks to the anxiety of being separated from family, the strangeness of new worlds, reconciliation with those new worlds, a return to family and familiarity and being able to move between two worlds without betraying either and without loss of love or friendship. It's a book to have, sitting on the shelf, to provide reassurance and peace at the end of a long day.
Also ... this book about finding family in any circumstance.